On Monday, Representatives Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD) and Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) introduced the COVID-19 Whistleblower Protection Act. It is part of a larger piece of legislation called the “Coronavirus Oversight and Recovery Ethics Act of 2020” or the “CORE Act.” You can view a copy of the CORE Act here.
(Skip to page 71 to view the whistleblower protections).
I could explain them to you myself. But, it’s getting late, and this press release from Congresswoman Speier does it for me. So, ctrl-c, ctrl-v, and voila!
- Institutes strong whistleblower protections for employees or former employees of recipients of funds under the CARES Act or other similar legislation meant to address COVID-19.
- Protects disclosures related to relief funds that stand as evidence of gross mismanagement or waste, danger to public health or safety, abuse of authority, or violation of law, rule, or regulation.
- Creates a legal framework that provides administrative relief in which the Department of Labor can investigate whistleblower retaliation claims from non-federal employees or contractors under a strengthened legal framework.
- If administrative relief is not timely provided, whistleblowers will have access to jury trials in federal court, a best practice standard for modern whistleblower protection laws.
- Protects whistleblower confidentiality and protect against gag orders.
In a nutshell, this has much less to do with health and safety conditions at work — that’s an OSHA thing — as it does misuse of CARES Act loan money.
Additionally, this press release from Senator Harris further underscores that “[t]he bill allows any individual harmed by a company’s misuse of bailout funds to seek recourse through the courts to ensure that harmed parties, like workers fired after a company committed to not fire anyone after receiving bailout funds, have the ability to bring private lawsuits and seek damages against bailout recipients who do not adhere to bailout terms. The bill also hold senior executives of companies that violate bailout terms personally liable to taxpayers, including by having their executive compensation seized.”
For what it’s worth, this legislation isn’t something out of left field. Indeed, the sponsors modeled it after the whistleblower protections Congress included in the 2009 Recovery Act.
Will it pass? Oh, you want me to give you that answer. I thought you knew.
How about this? If the bill progresses through Congress, I’ll keep you updated. Deal?